60 Seconds with Rachael Sansom, MHP Communications

Rachael Sansom, head of brand at MHP Communications, tells us about the blurred line between corporate and consumer PR, the importance of engaging content in relation to brand image and her surfing challenge.

Sansom Rachael 1

Rachael Sansom

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work in the morning?

Say good morning to the team, check in with them and get a cup of coffee (in that order). I then look at my feeds to see what’s going on in the world and look out for anything really innovative in the communications and content arena. After that, it’s nose to the grindstone.

Why is it important for companies to monitor their brand image?

The ability for brands to tightly control their image through the traditional channels of bought and earned media has shifted dramatically in the digital age. What consumers say, think and share now makes up a brand’s image, that’s the new reality. It’s also why social listening is becoming a critical tool for insight, engagement and strategic planning but, most importantly, for managing a situation as it happens.

If an individual had a poor customer experience a decade ago they’d tell their neighbour or their colleague. Now they can capture that experience as it is happening and share it across social media. Within seconds someone anywhere across the globe could see that, and companies have to tune into this fact.

Is there, or should there be, a difference between the way that consumer and corporate companies manage their brands?

I don’t think the issue is a difference between how corporate and consumer brands are managed. Instead, every brand is individual, requiring unique perspectives and approaches to its communications. This necessitates the ability to deploy the right mix of skills, techniques and channels.

The proliferation of digital channels means that techniques that used to be siloed as ‘consumer’ or ‘corporate’ are much more fluid. An example of this is MHP’s work for Arla in the UK, while ostensibly a corporate reputation brief, we utilise channels and techniques perhaps historically considered more consumer such as GIFs, Vines and content.

How effectively can content-led communications help a brand to improve or change its image?

The ability to be able to directly communicate with consumers via digital channels and engaging content is, as we all know, a major game changer on so many levels. Brands are no longer constrained by a third party lens. Not only can content-led communications help brand image through engagement, it can also lead consumers to direct action – and even change behaviours.

A great example of this was our Missing Type campaign for NHS Blood and Transplant which was 100% content-led and saw over 1,000 brands and organisations drop the letters of the blood groups – A, B and O – from their logos and social profiles. This unprecedented level of engagement helped spark a social media movement which, in turn, generated a record 30,000 new blood donor registrations in just 10 days of activity.

What are the major differences between working in-house and working for an agency? What are the biggest misconceptions?

The biggest misconception for agency people is to presume that they are the centre of the client’s world, and that their client’s only job is to manage the agency. The truth is that agency management is a small percentage of your time as an in-house client. As a senior in-house communicator you will work on a broad range of business critical issues, so the latest campaign execution is probably far down your list.

Having worked on both sides, I am passionate about trying to get my agency teams to understand the machinations of the client world i.e. how you have to sell to and engage internal stakeholders. I think it benefits all communications professionals to do a spell both agency and client-side to get a broader perspective.

Describe your ideal weekend
Somewhere on the south coast, desperately trying to surf (sadly I am not very good) with my kids and my husband, and some nice food.

  • Are you working in an interesting or unusual PR role? Do you have strong views on the industry that you want to share with the Gorkana community? If so, please contact Emily Andrews.
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